The tax package passed by Congress on Saturday establishes new grant programs for child care and increases tax credits for low-income families with children in the name of child-care assistance.

The package reflects a new political consensus expressed by both parties during the 1988 presidential campaign: That care for young children, in order that their parents might work, is a vital concern of working families and is something government should encourage.It also amounts to the first time since World War II that the government has adopted formal policy supporting child care outside welfare and employment programs, said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., one of its authors.

"It's been a four-year battle," said Dodd, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on children. "I'm extremely satisfied with the result."

Sponsors said the measure would provide assistance to 750,000 children in the initial year. The bill also would require states to establish health, safety, registration and quality requirements.

"There will be more child-care slots, better child-care delivered," said Rep. Thomas Downey, D-N.Y., another sponsor.

The measure was part of a tax package passed by the House early Saturday, 228-200, and later in the day by the Senate, 54-45.

While President Bush had supported the concept of child-care assistance during his 1988 campaign, he opposed elements of the House and Senate packages until two weeks ago, when White House officials reached agreement with Dodd on the block grant program.